Round four is on hold
Government workers' contract talks delayed

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (May 01/00) - It will likely be six months after the new collective agreement was supposed to be ratified before the two parties will even meet again across the bargaining table.

That's the word from Doug Workman, the president of the Nunavut Employees Union (NEU).

Heading up the bargaining team for GN workers, Workman said it will likely be September before he steps into the ring for round four.

Three bargaining sessions have taken place so far and while the current collective agreement was set to expire at the end of March, it's still valid because negotiations are ongoing.

It was hoped that the fourth round of talks would take place this month.

"We were hoping to be able to do that, but it looks like both teams have other things happening. We can't proceed," he said.

Noting that some members of the NEU would be frustrated by the lack of progress, Workman said the delay was caused by additional research that needs to be done.

That was echoed by Garry Pinto, the director of labour relations for the GN.

"Both sides want to study each other's proposals and as we work on each stage, additional information comes up. We want to do research and come back to the table prepared," said Pinto.

He also noted that he'd wanted to have the ratified agreement in place by the end of the fiscal year, but because both sides started from scratch just over a year ago, designing appropriate packages is taking longer than expected.

He remains hopeful, however.

"From my perspective, the momentum is there. We'll be meeting in September, so maybe September is the timeframe," said Pinto.

Until such time as the parties put their gloves back on -- round four will concentrate on the monetary issues of the Northern Allowance and employee salaries --

Workman said the brunt of the backroom research will focus around determining essential service levels.

"People are understaffed, so where does the essential level begin and where does it end? That's becoming a real quagmire," said Workman.